Yes, the Chevy Volt Can Recharge While Driving

Posted: Sep 29, 2008 10:51 a.m.

2010 Chevy Volt Pictures

Chevy Volt Pics

In the echo chamber of the internet, misinformation sometimes spreads faster than it can be corrected.  Case in point: a story that Chevy's upcoming 2010 Chevy Volt hybrid can't recharge its batteries while driving.

The story initially appeared in Edmunds Inside Line last week.  From there, it spread through several major automotive blogs and set off a grassfire of angry comments in Volt enthusiast web forums.  The source? A single press release issued on the day that the production Volt's prototype was first shown to the press noted, "A gasoline/E85-powered engine generator seamlessly provides electricity to power the Volt's electric drive unit while simultaneously sustaining the charge of the battery." Edmunds assumed that "sustaining" meant that the Volt couldn't recharge its batteries while driving, but instead, could simply keep the batteries from depleting below a pre-set level. 

Now, Inside Line has printed a correction.  "John Lauckner, GM's VP for Global Program Management," Inside Line notes, "says that the 1.4-liter gasoline engine does in fact send whatever surplus power it makes to the lithium-ion battery."

Autoblog notes, "What the Volt's gas engine can't do is completely recharge the battery pack to its full capacity. Rather, when load conditions are light the gas engine will send surplus electrons to the battery pack, which will also be receiving extra charge from regenerative braking, as well."

That strategy, if it works, will actually save Volt owners money.  It's much less expensive, according to GM's calculations, to charge the Volt from an outlet than it is to charge it from its gasoline engine -- so under ideal conditions, the Volt's engine would charge the batteries only enough to help the car reach an outlet, so that it could re-charge at less expense to its owner.

GM-Volt.com explains, "The goal is to use the electric grid" to charge the car, "So the car will carry on at approximately that 30% state of charge until the driver can get to an outlet and then fully recharge. Without recharging at an outlet, the car could drive indefinitely using gas and refills, but doing so would defeat the whole point" of the car's technology.  The Volt will be capable of driving indefinitely using gasoline to maintain its battery charge -- but it makes more sense for owners to use gasoline only when absolutely necessary.

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